BART employee John O’Conner addresses the media Monday after pulling a man off the tracks at Coliseum Station Sunday. (Courtesy BART)

BART employee pulls man from path of train

John O’Conner is normally a humble sort, but on Sunday night he acknowledged he was in the right place at the right time Sunday to save the life of a BART passenger who fell into the path of a BART train coming to a stop at the Coliseum station in Oakland.

O’Conner, a BART transportation supervisor and 24-year employee with the transit agency, was helping control crowds at the Colisuem station immediately following Sunday’s Oakland Raiders football game at about 5:20 p.m., helping people move though the station and onto post-game trains, when a man who appeared to have been in his late 20s fell onto the southbound track as a train approached the platform.

“I was standing on the yellow strip, telling people to stay back, looking (north) toward Lake Merritt when, in my peripheral vision, I saw him fall, almost like he missed a step going up a stairway, and he ended up in the trackway,” O’Conner said. “Everybody was telling him, ‘Get out of the trackway, a train’s coming.’”

Indeed, a train was coming at 36 mph, he said. So with the man on the track, O’Conner got down at the edge of the platform and grabbed the man by the shoulders, hefting him and rolling him onto the platform.

The train, O’Conner said, was perhaps 60 feet away when the man was pulled onto the platform.

“I thought the train was going to cut him in half, honestly,” O’Conner said Sunday night. “I didn’t want to see this guy die.”

Tony Badilla, who was on the platform and made a video of the aftermath of O’Conner’s actions, said on Twitter that he was watching O’Conner work as he waited for his train.

“He was actively keeping the postgame crowd clear from danger while helping riders to their trains,” Badilla said. “The positive outcome of this event is a direct result of John’s attentiveness!”

The man who fell, who wasn’t immediately identified, was taken for a medical evaluation, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said Sunday night.

O’Conner, an Antioch resident, spent 20 years as a BART train operator before his promotion to transportation supervisor, and he knows the horror operators feel when they see someone on the tracks in front of them. He said the incident reminded him that first responders save human lives as a matter of course, and of how valuable their work is.

As for his own actions Sunday night, O’Conner said, “I just did what I did. I just thank God I was there.”

-By Sam Richards, Bay City News

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